Sue Belcher, micro-school director
Working on the curriculum of the Lakeside micro-school is an exciting piece of my job – first as director of micro-school research and development and now as the micro-school director. In doing this work, I've drawn on the expertise of some of Lakeside's most innovative teachers, as well as forward-thinking educators from around the world. It has truly been a collaborative process, and I am excited to start sharing information about how and what students will learn.
The micro-school curriculum will combine some of the best aspects of Lakeside School's high-quality academic program with special programs and features that are unique to the micro-school. Courses will be engaging and relevant to students, with a strong emphasis on active learning, in which students take intellectual risks; engage in self-reflection; identify goals and strategies for personal development; use feedback effectively; and transfer skills from one context to another. As at Lakeside, faculty will have outstanding experience and credentials in their fields, as well as a passion for educating young people. At its heart, the academic program will focus on developing critical and creative thinkers who can communicate and interact effectively. Students will "learn how to learn" so they can prepare for a future in which rapid change is the norm.
I recently discussed the micro-school with a number of Lakeside alumni from the Bay Area, and their excitement and interest strengthened my confidence that we are on the right track. The proposed curriculum deeply resonated with them because it focuses on the development of skills necessary to succeed in today's fast-paced world while retaining much of what was powerful about their experiences at Lakeside.
Over the next few months, I'll be sharing more details but today I want to focus on three pieces of our curricular approach.
First, every student at the micro-school will study English, history, math/computational thinking, science, and Spanish. We believe that a strong grounding in each of these major content areas will help students understand how different academic disciplines approach problems. Students will learn not only content, but the skills and habits of mind that will enable them to successfully tackle new problems throughout their lives. As a Bay Area alum remarked, you don't need a degree in software engineering if you have the skills to do the job. It all comes back to the ability to learn how to learn.
Second, interdisciplinary learning is key. Like Lakeside, a number of micro-school courses will have a deliberate emphasis on using more than one approach to answer a question, investigate a problem, or follow a theme or topic. For example, in the 9th-grade course Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity, students will explore how both historians and scientists engage in the study of our world and our place within it. This approach is consistent with how learning happens in the world.
Third, online learning will be a part of every student's experience. Being a lifelong learner is critically important today and more and more learning is taking place online. Juniors and seniors at the micro-school will be able to take electives through the Global Online Academy (GOA), a program that sets best practices in online education through intellectually rigorous classes, excellent teaching, and diverse, worldwide, online schoolroom communities. Our students will learn alongside students and teachers from more than 60 of the best independent schools around the world, including Lakeside School. As Rick Shaw, dean of Stanford undergraduate admissions and GOA board member, recently wrote: "GOA is special in that they allow curious young people to explore what they're passionate about by learning with a spectacular teacher and other, equally interesting young adults."
Lakeside's Bay Area alumni told me and Bernie Noe that they change jobs and even industries regularly. For them, long-term financial security comes from sharpening their skill set rather than committing to one company for a long period of time. That was one reason they were so supportive of this concept of helping students learn how to learn.
As Lakeside moves forward with plans to open a micro-school in fall 2018, I will continue to incorporate ideas and insights from a wide variety of people. Stay tuned to learn more about some of the special programs and features of the micro-school, including grade-level themes, internships, and using the city as a lab.
Read more about the micro-school: